CAN announces 18-member preliminary U-19 squad

Kathmandu, June 26:

Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) today announced the 18-member squad to prepare for the upcoming ACC Under-19 Elite Cup.

The squad includes seven players from Region No 3 (Kathmandu), five from Region No 4 (Bhairahawa), two each from Region No 1 (Biratnagar) and Region No 5 (Nepalgunj), and one each from Region No 2 (Birgunj) and Region No 6 (Baitadi).

Paras Khadka, Sharad Vesawkar, Gyanendra Malla, Avay Rana, Raj Shrestha, Dipen Shrestha and Rom Shrestha are from Kathmandu, while Akash Gupta, Sagar Khadka, Amrit Bhattarai, Antim Thapa and Rahul Kumar BK represent Bhairahawa. Ratan Rauniyar and Santosh Baral are from Biratnagar; Sahid Riza and Mahesh Chhetri of Nepalgunj; Shashi Keshari of Birgunj and Chandra Saud of Baitadi.

Of the nine new faces — Rom, Akash, Sagar, Amrit, Antim, Rahul, Santosh, Sahid and Chandra — Akash was included in the senior side in 2006. The players, who will be kept under closed camp from July 3, were picked up as per their performance in the recently concluded Wai Wai U-19 National Championship, said CAN in a release.

Three time defending champions Nepal will play the ACC Elite Cup from August 18-29 in Malaysia in a bid to qualify for the U-19 World Cup for the fifth time in a row. Nepal beat Malaysia in three previous finals.

Nepal is pitted in Group A along with UAE, Singapore, Thailand and Oman while Group B comprises of Hong Kong, Malaysia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Qatar.

In the first U-19 WC appearance in 2000, Nepal made it to the Super Six round in Sri Lanka. It was the best run of Nepal to date when they drew Pakistan and South Africa and beat Kenya to become the first non-Test playing nation to make it that far. In 2002 in New Zealand, Nepal finished as Plate Championship runners up but in 2004 they fail to make any impact in Bangla-desh. In the last edition in Sri Lanka in 2004, Nepal won the Plate Championship.

This time around the road to the World Cup is much tough for the Asians. With Malaysia securing an automatic berth as a host nation, Nepal will not only have to win the ACC U-19 Elite Cup but also put aside the challenge from the European runner-up team.